The War in Iraq: What Next for Democratic Opposition?

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By Terry M. Neal
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 8, 2005; 7:53 AM

After issuing a string of confusing comments about where he stood on his vote to authorize war in Iraq, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), has finally taken a stand -- albeit a year too late for his political aspirations.

Several other high-profile Democrats, including Sens. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Diane Feinstein (Calif.), Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Christopher Dodd (Conn.) are stepping up as well and expressing regret for voting for the resolution authorizing the war in Iraq.

As a majority of the American public has reached the conclusion that they have been, as Malcolm X might have once put it, "hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, and run amok," some Democratic leaders in Washington are finding it comfortable to publicly renounce their votes in favor of the war resolution.

Yet, despite the latest Washington Post/ABC poll results indicating that 55 percent of Americans believe that the Bush administration "intentionally misled the American public," many Democrats are standing by their yea votes, including most of those mentioned as possible presidential candidates in 2008, including Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), Joe Biden (Del.) and John Edwards (N.C.).

When asked by an NPR reporter last week if she regretted her vote on Iraq, Clinton, considered by some to be the early favorite for the Democratic nomination responded, "You know, I really can't talk about this on the fly. It's too important."

Bayh found himself on the firing line during a recent visit to New Hampshire. When speaking to a group of about 100 people he was asked if he'd vote to the same way today, given all that is known now. Bayh seemed to walk right up to the fine line without jumping over it.

"It turned out some of the most important information we relied upon at that time just was not accurate," Bayh told the crowd, according to the Indianapolis Star. "There were no weapons of mass destruction. The administration has proven to be terribly incompetent in the way they've carried this out. It turns out Saddam's regime was much more decrepit than we thought. Of course, we'd make different decisions based upon different facts as we know them today."

I checked with his office on Monday for clarification and was told by a press aide that Bayh "believes that he made the right decision based on the facts as they were known at the time."

That answer won't satisfy some in the party's base. At the New Hampshire event, a Democrat named Al Cantor said: "I think he needs to say, 'I blew it. I should've seen through all the lies.' There were millions of people around the world saying there was no case for war...Any presidential candidate for the Democratic Party has got to have a better answer."

Others who are prominent and visible voices in the party have refused to renounce their votes, including Sens. Joseph Lieberman (Conn.) and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.). In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, Schumer blasted the administration's handling of Iraq while simultaneously defending his vote authorizing the war.

Asked by "Meet the Press" moderator Tim Russert if he regretted his vote, Schumer said: "Well, no, Tim, because my vote was seen and I still see it as a need to say we must fight a strong and active war on terror."

Much of the discussion in Washington is over the devastating impact the war in Iraq is having on the poll numbers of Bush and the GOP. Some predict this issue more than any other will lead to a narrowing or even a loss of the GOP's majority status in next year's midterm elections.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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